6 Strategies to Build A Collaborative Workforce
As more workplaces move towards an open working structure and break down hierarchies, teams that are collaborative and cross-functional are more productive overall than teams where each member is sectioned off with their own duties. Organisations typically structure their performance reviews based on individual contributions and meeting targets. This may sometimes cause people to put teamwork on the back burner in the quest to meet individual targets. However, in the current times, with rapidly changing business environments, businesses need to bring the focus on collaboration.
At YellowSpark we have seen firsthand that sharing ideas can lead to innovation, and collaboration can build trust that will make achieving business goals much more likely. Individual development and achievement can achieve only so much for organisational growth. So, to accelerate growth, companies need to shift gears and focus on collaboration at all levels.
Having said that, fostering a collaborative team environment is not that simple. It takes a concerted effort to integrate co-operative values throughout your whole company’s ethos. Here are some strategies to give you a head-start:
#Communicate the purpose of collaboration over and over again.
If your team doesn’t know that you want them to work together, you can’t expect them to do so. You have to set the expectations straight from the start. It should be part of your onboarding process so that potential recruits know you prioritise teamwork.
It has to be communicated clearly in employees’ job descriptions itself and must include details of what is expected of individual roles, as well as roles they’re expected to carry out collaboratively. By differentiating these, you’re setting clear boundaries between what employees should be taking personal responsibility for, and what they need to work on collectively. While it may seem easy to grasp this is most often easily overlooked too.
# Facilitate collaboration in a structured way.
A team that knows their individual as well as collective goals helps to reduce silos and keeps everyone productive. Defining your company’s mission is the first step towards bringing people together under one common goal and working together towards making it happen.
Letting your team know what their goals should not be a monthly or even weekly conversation. Initially, it helps to discuss the goals daily to make sure they are on track. For instance, morning meetings held at the same time each day can help to foster the idea that everyday team members are working towards something specific together.
If you want to give them a sense of freedom and ownership, you can take a step back and let your team define their own daily goals. It is also your duty as a manager to make sure that individual tasks assigned don’t conflict, tasks are not repeated, and goals are constantly reassessed.
# Help employees accept diversity of gender, location, language.
Achieving cohesion and collaboration between team members within a diverse workforce may be more difficult due to the wide range of perspectives and opinions involved. Some ways to do this is to train employees to adopt the growth mindset and become inclusive in the real sense, where they can assimilate diverse perspectives before moving forward. Most collaborative efforts fail due to conflicts. And not accepting diversity is the culprit.
In another area, accepting diversity would mean making sure that decisions are taken transparently regarding recruitment and promotion, and providing feedback opportunities to all employees across all levels of seniority is essential.
If the approach is equal it will be genuine. When everyone knows that they are a key link in the chain and that their skills, expertise, and opinions are equally valued and respected it will build collaboration.
# Identify and make use of employee strengths.
Every team member has his or her strengths and weakness. So it’s a good idea to focus on their strengths, rather than their weakness. A good and common way to identify this is to conduct -psychometric assessments specifically designed to understand the personality mindset of each member of the team. A facilitated session for teams or individual coaching can help in a big way to bring about collaboration through the data-lens.
When employees have a better understanding of each other and see their own blind spots they can bond better and work to each other’s strengths. This will aid in achieving team goals, and help employees maximise their performance potential while empowering them.
# Identify collaboration champions.
Collaboration is a skill, it needs to be learned and constantly reinforced positively. To become collaborative employees have to be or learn to be open to discussion and feedback, and ready to co-create. This implies that from recruitment to promotions, every person has to demonstrate collaborative skills or learn them.
In our experience, the best way to foster collaboration is to identify ‘collaboration heroes’ – employees who are natural collaborators and making them central to projects across the team when possible. Another way to do it is by making sure an employee from the team is responsible to champion collaborative culture with clear-cut goals, and incorporating coaching in their daily schedules.
This goes a long way in establishing a collaborative and mentoring culture in the organisation. This approach not only brings about a change in the tactic toward training and mentoring, but it will also rub off on other employees of the organisation. Using key insights from classical motivational theories will be of great help too. Most importantly, this kind of engagement will also help breakdown hierarchies.
# Celebrate successes together.
Celebrations are a means for employee recognition, but recognition isn’t just about implementing employee programmes or distributing expensive gifts. It is an opportunity for the organisation to regularly demonstrate gratitude and appreciation for an employee’s accomplishments and about bringing employees together so they can cheer each other. It’s also about creating a culture where positive peer feedback is exchanged among the people that work most closely.
Stay with me here, and if you have implemented all of the above points, most likely, the theme of collaboration will be central to your celebrations. The impact of collective celebration is proven to be highly motivating, engaging, and a key to reinforcing positive behaviours and outcomes.
Like many new practices or processes, true collaboration has to reach every level in the organisation and become a core part of employee values. This means ensuring leaders prioritise collaboration and make it their mission to instil collaborative values onto teams and employees.
After all, employees also expect their workplace to deliver a productive, engaging, enjoyable experience. Collaborative teams tend to be more productive teams. And companies that know this invest time and resources in creating environments that are conducive to teamwork. Whether you’re a large corporation or a small establishment, and whatever the industry, product or service, taking steps towards a collaborative environment will ensure a happier, more valued as well as valuable workforce, even virtually!
At Yellow Spark, we develop internal communication strategies, learning & development plans and also conduct training to build a more collaborative workforce. To know more write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.